267 Or 176: On Manipur, Opposition vs Centre Over Parliament Rules

Manipur discussion in Parliament
Manipur discussion in Parliament

Manipur discussion in Parliament: As the Monsoon session enters its second day, the Centre is facing yet another challenge over a horrifying video showing two women paraded naked on a road by a group of men in Manipur. Opposition parties demanded yesterday that all other business be suspended for the day so that the Manipur issue could be discussed, but the government only agreed to a “Short Duration Discussion”. After loud protests from the Opposition, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned to 2:30 pm and the Lok Sabha for the entire day.

The opposition parties were on their feet as soon as the Lok Sabha met. Speaker Om Birla was told that “Manipur is bleeding” by members of the Congress, DMK, and Left. The speaker told opposition members that sloganeering won’t solve the problem, but dialogue and discussions will. The only way to find a solution is by discussing it, he said.

During Thursday’s Rajya Sabha proceedings, Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar adjourned the session until 2:30 pm as Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien raised a point of order over the expungement of certain words.

As of yesterday, the Centre only agreed to a shorter discussion under rule 176, while the Opposition demanded a longer discussion under rule 267.

Arjun Ram Meghwal, Junior Parliamentary Affairs Minister, claimed today that the Opposition deliberately avoids discussing Manipur. They keep changing their position, and referring to the rules, he said, adding that the Centre is willing to discuss Manipur. “The Home Minister will respond to this,” he said.

“Their (opposition) MPs have submitted notices under Rule 176. The Chairman was reading them out when they jumped in saying they want a discussion only under rule 267. The Chairman explained he was just reading out notices in a sequence and would come to 267 as well, but they didn’t listen to him. Then they demanded that the PM come to Parliament and give a statement. They keep changing their stand,” Mr Meghwal said, appealing to the Opposition to refrain from engaging in politics on it as it’s a “sensitive issue”.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi said the government was “completely prepared” for a discussion. They also want a discussion, according to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the opposition, said yesterday, “We have also issued notices under 267….you have to suspend all other business and take up this…not half an hour.”

With the approval of the Chairman, Rajya Sabha MPs have the power to suspend the predetermined agenda of the House.

The Rajya Sabha rule book defines “Rule 267” under “suspension of rules” as an instance where “any Member, with the consent of the Chairman, may move that any rule be suspended in its application to a motion related to the business listed before the council of that day.” If the motion is carried, the rule is suspended for the time being.

Recently, motions moved under this rule, which Chairman Jagdeep Dhankar described as “a known mechanism of causing disruption,” have rarely been accepted.

From 1990 to 2016, this rule was invoked 11 times for various discussions in Parliament. In 2016, then Chairman Hamid Ansari allowed a debate on “demonetisation of currency”.

Dhankhar had earlier stated that Venkaiah Naidu had not accepted a single notice during his six-year tenure.

It is not the only way for MPs to question the government and obtain a response. It is possible to ask questions related to any issue during the Question Hour, and the minister will have to answer them either orally or in writing. MPs can raise the issue during Zero Hour. Every day, 15 MPs can raise issues of their choice in the Zero Hour. MPs can even raise it during Special Mention. A Chairman can allow up to seven Special Mentions per day.

There is a possibility that the government is insisting on rule 176 as a firefighting strategy to prevent the Manipur issue from escalating further in the Parliament.

Manipur issues will be discussed under Rule 176 on a short-term basis by the members. There are three stages to these discussions, the first being that any member of the House can request a short-term discussion. Manipur issues are eagerly discussed by members. In accordance with the rule, I am responsible for consulting the Leader of the House about a date and time,” Mr Dhankhar said yesterday.

A short-duration discussion on a particular issue is allowed under Rule 176. “Any member who wishes to bring up a topic of urgent public importance may do so in writing by stating clearly and precisely what the topic will be: Provided the notice is accompanied by an explanatory note stating the reasons for raising the issue: Provided further that the notice is signed by at least two other members.”

Under Rule 176, the matter can be taken up immediately, within a few hours or even the next day. Short-duration discussions, however, are prohibited from holding formal motions or voting.

Congress’ MPs Mallikarjun Kharge, Pramod Tiwari, Ranjeet Ranjan, Syed Naseer Hussain, Imran Pratapgarhi along with Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena (UBT), Derek O’Brien of Trinamool Congress (TMC), Sanjay Singh of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Tiruchi Siva of Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK), Manoj Jha of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Elamaram Kareem of CPM and Binoy Viswam of CPI all submitted suspension of Business Notice under rule 267 in Rajya Sabha to discuss the “prime minister’s shocking silence on the ongoing violence in Manipur.”

After watching the horrific video of the Manipur violence yesterday, the PM broke his silence, saying his heart was filled with anguish and anger.

During his remarks before the start of the monsoon session of parliament, PM Modi assured that no guilty person will be spared. Action will be taken according to the law. What happened to the daughters of Manipur cannot be forgotten.

This incident in Manipur is shameful for any civilized nation. The entire country has been shamed,” he said.

Asked about incidents in Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the PM said, “I appeal to all Chief Ministers to strengthen law and order in their states.”

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